Is Cleaning Up the Chesapeake Watershed Worth the High Price?
Governor McDonnell says Virginia is beating its neighbors in the effort to remove harmful pollutants from the Chesapeake Bay, but some in the Shenandoah Valley are wondering if it's worth the price.
That work has cost Augusta County $66 million for upgrades to its sewage treatment plants. Five major wastewater-treatment plants serve the Augusta-Rockingham area. Together they've received more than $200 million in mandated upgrades to keep up with regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.
New technology powers treatment plants in Augusta County, which has allowed them to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous loads by up to seven or eight times. The Augusta County Service Authority doesn't try to decide whether it's worth the cost, but simply says it's staying ahead of regulations.
Farmer Gerald Garber says he's invested roughly $200,000 on water quality projects, and considers it money well spent.
"I'm kind of pleased when I ride by those streams and there's no cows standing in them and the banks aren't muddy... and the water's completely clear. I feel better about that," he said.
Garber's projects over the years have included stream fencing and cattle shelters to help minimize the sediment and nutrient that enters the watershed.
Augusta County and other local governments will be keeping an eye on the possibility of stormwater filtration in the near future. The service authority says that could be a major new expense, with untested benefits for the bay.
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